Intersectionality

Intersectionality is an important topic for the trans community and all communities. What is it, you may ask?  Intersectionality merely refers to ways that different types of prejudice and privilege interact. The largest intersectional concern facing the trans community is the treatment of transwomen of color. They get hit with both transmisogyny and racism. Now, you may well ask, why is it important?  Good question, why care?  Because we are rarely ever being hit with only one form of oppression. Could be a mix of race and being trans, or perhaps being homeless and being trans, or, even, being black, homeless, and trans. See, these come together in many different ways and all of these other factors need to be addressed as well. In fact, intersectionality is more than the some of it’s parts. It is more than just how this form of oppression and that form come together. It is about what a swirl of various forms of oppressions mix to make.

We need to stop seeing whatever issue we are advocating as just a single area where there is injustice. And that is the core of Intersectionality, how things are connected. As a Unitarian Universalist, intersectionality reminds me of the Seventh Principle, respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part. That principle extends to so many areas, but it’s focus is on how we interact with each other. It also reminds us to be aware how our organizations interact with each other and how they interact with people. I could spend a whole post or even many posts going into the Seven Principles of Unitarian Universalism and how they affect my way of dealing with the world.

Alright, diversion avoided and on to how to address issues brought up by intersectionality. The first thing to do is to admit that it is there and needs to be addressed. Step one to solve a problem is to admit that there is one. Step two is to see the problem from other perspectives. There are so many people who are affected by trans issues in different ways. Just like no two trans people have the same story, they also don’t have the same obstacles. That is something I’ve seen personally with my friends who are transgender. Their problems aren’t always mine and my problems aren’t always theirs. So, we need to keep that in mind and try to see things through another’s eyes.

Most importantly, be alright with making mistakes. As long as you are willing to learn from them, there is nothing wrong with not being perfect. Not being perfect is being a human. Don’t dwell on it and don’t obsess over it, just learn and move on. Just like life, make a mistake, learn from it, and move on.

Anyway, that’s my rant on intersectionality. For those poor souls who made it all the way through this, I hope you have a happy and safe Halloween. For those who didn’t, have a safe and happy Halloween too.

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Minimum Wage

I’m going to go a bit off of what I want this blog to cover. But this is too important to not say anything. Actually, there are quite a few things that I really want to write about, so be prepared.

So, on to the minimum wage. It is currently $7.25 federally and various other amounts in the various states. It’s been at this level for quite some time, even though the cost of living has increased a fair bit in that same time. This seems unfair to poorest of workers. Their expenses go up, they work more, yet their pay stays put. Why should these people be forced to live on the edge of survival in this country?  We have wealth that is nearly uncountable, yet many people can barely scrape by. This isn’t right and it can’t last.

Here are some statistics. The average age of minimum wage workers is 35. That’s right, the average minimum wage worker is nearing middle age, not graduation. Most, 88%, are over the age of 20, so definitely not high schoolers. Roughly half are women, 56%. There is a sizable portion with children, 28%. And just over half, 55%, work full time. Numbers are from Economic Policy Institute.

Do you know how much someone making minimum wage makes full time?  Not a lot. At 40 hours and $7.25/hour, you get $290/week, before taxes and deductions. If they get to keep 85% of their paycheck, that is $246.50. That is less than $1000 per month. Even renting a room is about $200/month. Feeding a single person is about $200/month. That leaves less than $600/month for electric, phone, gasoline, car insurance, life insurance, copays, deductibles, clothes, etc. And, don’t forget, they are supposed to put some money to the side in case something happens. There just isn’t enough money to go round.

Now, for some religions reasons. I’m not about to quote scripture, just some of the ideas presented by a man who was killed 2000 years because what he was saying wasn’t in favor of the rulers. Throughout the Old Testament, there are Laws saying things like, you shouldn’t pick up anything dropped while harvesting and don’t harvest the corners. Why, you may ask. Because these were left to the poor. That’s right, the wealthy were tasked by God to support the poor way back.

Now, onto more recent sources. Jesus said something along the lines of that which you do to the least you do to me. How you treat the poor is how you treat Jesus. Think about that for a minute. He also asked his followers to sell all they owned and give the money to the poor. He, himself, helped those less fortunate. The bread and fish, the healing of the sick, and even who he chose to receive his word. It wasn’t preached to the wealthy, nor to the powerful. He preached to those who lived on the margins. Who was held up as the standard, the wealthy man who gave more than his tithe, or the poor woman who gave all she had?  Who does Jesus and God ask us help?

Positive Experiences While Dealing with the Medical Community

There are so many poor experiences reported by the trans community with respect to the medical community. I’m not implying that there aren’t a lot of problems encountered by the trans community. I know the medical community has far to go before it is anywhere near being trans-inclusive. That said, I think it is also important to show that it is possible to have a good experience when seeking healthcare. There should be cautious optimism when seeing a medical professional.

The first experience I’ll share is actually a triplet of connected experiences. Early in my transition, I had need to visit a mental hospital. It was the first time work caused me to deal with overwhelming depression and anxiety. So, I went to a semi-local hospital and spent the day there. There is all kind of nonsense if you are having suicidal ideation. The nurses in the ER and everyone else treated me with respect all the while I was there. Then, I was transferred to the mental hospital. I had a bit of an issue at first. I mentioned that I was a transwoman and would it be possible to use my preferred name. Well, the nurse I asked responded with something along the lines of ‘I can’t guarantee anything’. Fortunately, a fellow inmate overheard this and talked to the head nurse the following day. So, she had a talk with me that boiled down to yes we and will use your preferred name. The other patients were very supportive as well. Experience two was about three months later when work caused me to have more anxiety than I can handle, again. Went to a local ER and was poorly treated, but I don’t think it was because I am trans, that hospital just isn’t that good. So, I end up back in the same hospital as before. This time, I didn’t need to ask, everyone remembered from last time. Again the other patients were alright with sharing space with a transwoman.

Also, there is dealing with my primary care physician. I went for a normal six month checkup and had to go through all of my meds. Of course, I mention spirolactone and estradiol and have to explain why I’m taking them. The nurse doing the pre-checkup stuff didn’t say anything about it or act oddly afterwards. At a later visit, since my psychiatrist had issues with me having panic attacks, I was seeing my PCP for meds. He brought up my being trans. Sure, he knows little about it, but was respectful with it and willing to learn.

I am lucky that I have not had any issues with my medical providers and being a transwoman. I admit that, and in general, being lucky with not having any issues with anyone with me being trans. The reason for me sharing these experiences is just to show that there are medical professionals who can with with someone who is transgender and be able to show respect. It’s not all doom and gloom.

Death Culture

With this most recent killing, we are now up to 20 this year. Last year we had 14. By August of this year, we had already passed the total number from the year before. And to make it even more disturbing, most of the trans people killed are trans women of color. This is reprehensible. There is no reason for an advanced country like the US to have such violence towards such a small group of people.

The responses to this violence are even worse than the murders themselves. There is the ever popular victim blaming. Why were they out at that time?  Why were they in that neighborhood?  They should have told their partner earlier. And on and on and on. It almost sounds like how rape is treated. How you are dressed, how you look, who you are with, where you are, when you are, none of this should matter. Yet, it is usually taken as more important than the murder itself.

For transwomen, it is even worse. In addition to all of the above, there is the ‘oh you have a penis so I need to kill you now’. Why is it considered ok for a man to kill a woman because her genitals weren’t what he expected?  Would it be ok for a woman to kill a man because he is circumsized and she was expecting him to not be?  Of course not. Then again, there is next to no socially acceptable reason for women to use violence. Men get to use many forms of violence against many different kinds of people, but those are discussions for another time.

Anyway, back to the murders. Not only are most of them perpetrated on black transgender people, they are often not investigated by the police. When they are investigated, it is only because the families have made themselves a nuisance to the police. It shouldn’t take harassing the police to get them to do their jobs, yet if you are black or transgender, that is what must be done. And combining the two, forget about it, the cops want nothing to do with people that aren’t real people.

That, right there, is the problem in a nutshell. There are classes of people who aren’t real people according the culture at large. Our culture does not give full person status to many groups of people, women, lgbt people, people of color, the poor, etc. I do not know why our culture is like that. Or why it promotes violence, in addition to othering. What I do know is that our culture must change. No longer can it be acceptable to dismiss and hurt people just because they have some minor or even major difference from you. Causing people harm over differences should never have been ok, so it is long past time for this to change. I’m open to ideas on changing this culture.

More fun with Belief!

There was a fair bit about belief that I did not include with last week’s post, for space reasons. And as an attempt to try to not wander all over the place, as I often do.

First, let me share the second Firefly quote.

Book: River, you don’t… fix the Bible.

River: It’s broken. It doesn’t make sense

Book: It’s not about… making sense. It’s about believing in something. And letting that   belief be real enough to change your life. It’s about faith. You don’t fix faith, River. It fixes you.

Book is right about the Bible, it doesn’t need to make sense. In fact, it doesn’t need to be true. Way back when, stories were told to show how to live a moral life. They weren’t meant to be taken literally. And of course the Bible doesn’t make sense in parts, it was written by many people over a broad swath of time and space. Things change and new stories need to be told. Such is the way of life.

The good Shepard is also right about belief. Belief done right isn’t just an idea in your head. It is about getting you out of your comfort zone, making you change. Belief is about so much more than saying some words, it truly is about making yourself a better person, about making the world a better place. Change is what is required by belief.

Belief is also about getting people together. The easiest to see is, of course, religions. But there is so much more. What about the volunteers working a campaign?  They are working towards a common goal because they believe that the person they support will get elected. Belief is required for activism, businesses, and other enterprises requiring people to work together. Everyone involved must have a belief in something larger than themselves.

Belief is also required if you want to change yourself. Say you wanted to stop a bad habit. How likely is it that you will succeed if you don’t believe?  Not too good, right?  You must believe it can be done before you do it. Change is hard, even harder if you don’t think you can do it. You must believe in you.

Now, what Shepard Book is talking about is a combination of what I mentioned above. You must believe in yourself, because without that, no change can happen. You must also believe in something bigger than yourself. That just makes life easier. It doesn’t have to be God, it doesn’t even have to be a deity of any kind. It just needs to be something outside of yourself that has meaning for you. That belief will help you keep going when times get tough. And, let’s face it, change is tough.

There is one more, long, quote and then I promise to move onto another topic next week. This one is from ‘Hogfather’ by Terry Pratchett and is spoken by Death. It is one of my very favorites, please enjoy.

“All right,” said Susan. “I’m not stupid. You’re saying humans need… fantasies to make life bearable.”

REALLY? AS IF IT WAS SOME KIND OF PINK PILL? NO. HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.

“Tooth fairies? Hogfathers? Little—”

YES. AS PRACTICE. YOU HAVE TO START OUT LEARNING TO BELIEVE THE LITTLE LIES.

“So we can believe the big ones?”

YES. JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.

“They’re not the same at all!”

YOU THINK SO? THEN TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET—Death waved a hand. AND YET YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD, AS IF THERE IS SOME…SOME RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED.

“Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what’s the point—”

MY POINT EXACTLY.